Saturday, May 27, 2017

170528 Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

As we make our way through the book of Genesis we have seen the creation of the world in six days. We have seen how God brought man to a place where he understood his need for a mate. We have seen the man and woman rebel against God and fall from his grace. Now, with the man and woman living outside the Garden of Eden we see the continuation of the human race. We now see the ongoing consequences of the Fall.
Genesis 4:8-10 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
The first family on earth was dysfunctional! Once man turns away from God everything begins to go wrong. For Adam and Eve — with sin came shame. They had nothing to be ashamed of until they rebelled against God. Then they found themselves outside the Garden having to scratch a living out of the ground. The ground they had once enjoyed became a daily reminder of their rebellion. I suppose you could say that the ground itself rebelled against them as they had rebelled against God. We don’t know how much time passed but…
Over a period of time, two sons were born to them. Let’s look back at Genesis 4:1-2. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
In the course of normal events Adam and Eve produced children. The only children so far mentioned are two boys. Though girls are not named, there must also have been sisters. When Cain was sent away from the Garden he took his wife with him. We do not know how much time passed between these two boys. Of course, it was a minimum of nine months and probably extended to 2 to 4 years. And then they had to grow up to the point that they were able to grow crops and raise sheep. Later we are told about the years that Adam lived on earth and it is noted that he had other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4).
As they grew up…
These two sons were very different from each other. We see the beginning of these changes in Genesis 4:3-5. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord and offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
Over the years many Bible students have held the position that Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable because it was grain rather than a blood sacrifice. That can hardly be the case since God made provision for grain offerings when he, centuries later, gave them the law. Dozens of times in the book of Leviticus, God tells Israel how to give a grain offering. It’s true that apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. But it’s also true that God not only accepted grain offerings but he ordained them. It was not the type of offering given by Cain that was the problem it was the heart attitude.
The writer of Hebrews explains it for us…
Cain killed Abel because of righteousness. Let’s look at Hebrews 11:4. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable to God than Cain’s because Abel gave an offering accompanied by faith. When it came time for Cain and Abel to offer their sacrifices there was no set of rules. Instead, each of them gave out of their own labor. It must’ve been in the summertime when the first crops appeared ready to be harvested. Abel gave the firstborn of his flock to God.
In the same manner, God gave his firstborn for us. Out of love for us God gave his only son so that we could believe in him and have eternal life (John 3:16).
Abel’s faith was attributed to him as righteousness.
Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable because of his attitude. We come again to a situation where someone who not only knew about God, but personally knew God, operated in rebellion against God.
We are not informed what the evidence was that caused God to accept Abel’s offering. In the same way, we do not know exactly how God showed Cain that his sacrifice was not acceptable. It becomes obvious from the context that Cain knew he had been rejected. Even worse than that his brother’s sacrifice was accepted. Sibling rivalry has always existed! I can imagine the feelings that welled up inside of Cain. I can practically hear him saying, “Goodie two shoes wins again” or, “Abel always gets his way” or, “I’ll make sure he regrets this.”
Proverbs 21:27 tells us: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” That certainly seems to describe Cain. We shall see in a few minutes how wicked he was. John, in his first little letter, tells us that Cain was of the evil one (1 John 3:12). Even though there is no mention of influence by Satan in the text related to Cain, John goes on to say the whole world is in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19).  Jesus, himself, said that Satan is “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). Paul told the Corinthians that Satan is “the God of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Cain had a wrong attitude because he was subject to Satan.
Putting together all the things that the New Testament tells us that Satan is — he is a liar, a murderer, a deceiver and a false teacher. Therefore we can believe that there is some degree of demonic activity in nearly all wrongdoing.
Not all sin is caused by Satan or demons but demonic activity is probably a factor in almost all sin and almost all destructive activity to oppose the work of God in the world today.
Even though there is no record of how to conduct sacrifices the first two children of Adam and Eve had a conscious need to sacrifice.
Before Cain could act on his wicked impulses…
God reached out to Cain. Let’s look back at Genesis 4:6-7. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
God did not leave him in his stew. God clearly points out to Cain that if he had done well he would be accepted. The influence of Satan was crouching at the door. Satan had a desire to rule Cain. I am sure that Cain and Abel knew about the words of God when he said that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). We know today that is a promise of Jesus coming to pay the price for our sin. Our earliest forefathers could not have known that. When Cain became angry God did not ignore him. Instead he reached out to him. God asked a question, “Why are you angry?” he had no right to be angry at Abel, or God. God could see Cain’s face and clearly it showed his inner attitude.
We’ve all either done it or observed others whose “face fell” after being disappointed. So we can see that Cain did not displease God by his sacrifice instead it was…
The heart not the sacrifice. Let’s turn to Hebrews 11:4. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
It was by his faith that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice. Therefore we can see Cain’s sacrifice would not be accepted because of a lack of faith. Cain’s heart attitude was wrong before God therefore his sacrifice was wrong. So that even in the earliest days of man’s tenure on earth there was an understanding that there must be a sacrifice of Thanksgiving and of repentance. Cain failed because he was subject to Satan and he did not have the requisite faith to please God. The faith condition has always been with us. In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that “without faith it is impossible to please him (God), for whoever (including Cain) would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Cain certainly knew that God existed but apparently did not believe that he rewards those who seek him.
As a consequence of his subjection to Satan, Cain was driven away from the presence of God to become a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. God even put a mark on him to prevent anyone from killing him.
A side issue has always been where did Cain get his wife? There is absolutely no doubt that his wife was his sister. There was no other race of humans to draw from. Up until this time in human history the only woman who was named was Eve! Later, in the lineage of Cain two women are named. Adah and Zillah were the wives of Lamech, the first recorded bigamist (Genesis 4:19).
Our gracious God has always reached out to his rebellious children and will continue to do so until the end of the age.
The path to salvation has always been the same. Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:8-10. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
“Grace” means God’s unmerited favor. One way of looking at the word “grace” is to turn it into an acrostic. Each letter represents a word: G-od’s R-iches A-t C-hrist’s E-xpense! We are completely unable to earn God’s favor. We can only be declared righteous if God provides a way of salvation. Grace comes to us through a faith that cannot be earned. Instead, it is the gift of God. God did not have to save us but he chose to save us through his unmerited favor. Faith is a heart attitude that is the exact opposite of our depending on our own works.
In order to receive God’s grace we have to give up on our self-effort. We have to realize that nothing we do will ever make us right before God. We must come to Jesus, trust in him completely to give us a righteous standing before God. Faith is the perfect attitude of trust in God for our salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone! The Bible tells us again and again that we cannot be made right with God by our own effort. For example, Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.; Galatians 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.; And Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
We need to remember that…
When God asked Cain where his brother was he was not seeking information. He wanted Cain to admit his guilt. Instead, Cain lied and tried to change the subject. God would have none of that! He pointed out Cain’s guilt. The ground that had received Abel’s blood would become more resistant to Cain than it had previously been. He would live out his life as a fugitive separated from God. At the end of his life, so far as we know, Cain became the first human resident in hell! Each of us needs to be able to positively answer two questions, “Where will you spend eternity?” And, “Do you know that you will go to heaven when you die?” You need to know the answer. The Gospel of John was written to give us the answer. (John 20:30-31)
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

Saturday, May 20, 2017

170521 Did God Actually Say?

Genesis 3:1-3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
At the end of the six creation days God saw everything that he had made and announced that it was very good. We do not know how much time passed between Genesis 1:31 and the events in Genesis chapter 3. During that time, which may have lasted much longer than we would assume from reading the text, there must have been a rebellion in the angelic world with many angels turning against God and becoming evil. With regard to the human race the first sin was rebellion against God. Their sin struck at the basis for knowledge when Eve chose to doubt God’s word.
Today we live in a world that, by and large, no longer accepts the first few chapters of Genesis as historically accurate. Many biblical scholars believe that they can do away with the accuracy of these events without losing Christianity. It can’t be done! The importance of the events in chapters 1 through eight is much greater than most people realize. As we move forward through the message today I want to give you the information you need to understand the complications of Adam’s and Eve’s sin. This story cannot be a myth for all of salvation history depends upon it!
Eve’s sin, followed by Adam’s, was to replace God. Let’s look at Genesis 3:4-5. But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In response to Satan’s question, “Did God actually say, you shall not eat of any tree in the garden? ” Eve was not careful to quote God correctly. Her reply was, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, (so far so good) neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” So far as we know God did not say that they should not touch the tree. Eve’s response gave an opening to Satan who said to her, “You will not surely die.” And then he added, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The knowledge of good and evil does not cause us to be like God, instead, it causes us to feel guilty. “Knowing good and evil” does not characterize God in any way. The prophet Habakkuk speaks to God with these words, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” (Habakkuk 1:13) God is the author of everything good.
We do not know how long the man and the woman were in the Garden of Eden together. They were naked and not ashamed, nor afraid. The knowledge of good and evil comes from being tempted and falling for the temptation! James, our Lord’s brother, pointed out: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) After that, for the first time, humankind felt a sense of shame. Until then the magnificence of the human form in its perfect condition surrounded them and they never sensed any reason to reject it.
When God called out to Adam, “Where are you?”, He was not seeking information. And when he calls to you and I, he knows exactly where we are and what we need to do to be conformed to the image of his will — that we could be born again.
It is very important that we insist on the historical truthfulness of the fall. If these things did not happen as reported we are still in our sins and we will never be able to pay the price. Remember…
These events were very real and they affect us personally. Let’s look at Romans 5:12. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned —
Eve used her own judgment rather than trusting in God. She saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, beautiful to look at, and was a shortcut to reach their life’s goals. After all, God must have wanted them to be like him since the Bible is very clear that through faith we become the children of God. After all, isn’t that exactly what God wanted?
I can’t imagine the level of admiration these two people felt for the God who walked with them in the Garden! To be like Jesus! It surely seems that should be our goal!
Satan’s promise was a shortcut to God’s intended goal for them. That tactic of his continues to plague us today. New Christians are not usually taught that Christianity did not begin with them. In witnessing to an unbeliever Christians often say, “That’s all you have to do.” I submit to you that becoming a Christian is never a simple matter. And having come to faith in Christ there is no shortcut to godly living. The master of deception is still at work in our world. People are being deceived today just as…
Eve was deceived. Let’s look at Jeremiah 17:9-10. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
God’s word to Jeremiah spells out the condition of Eve when she stood before Satan in the Garden. When sin entered the world through deception it causes everyone to be born subject to being deceived while looking for a shortcut to heaven.
God will not leave us in our condition. He will surround us with grace and truth. God does not anywhere deny that unbelievers can do good in many ways. God simply denies that they can do any spiritual good or be good in relation to God. Without the work of Christ in our lives we, like all unbelievers, are darkened in our understanding and alienated from the life of God due to our hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:18). Every person is born with a hard heart and in desperate need for God to replace that heart of stone with a heart of flesh. We should make this to be our prayer for our unsaved friends that God would soften their hearts. Opening them up to allow their actions to change from being totally unable to please God (Romans 8:8) to being children of God — rather than slaves to sin.
When mother Eve sinned…
God held Adam accountable. Let’s look at Genesis 3:9. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
From the very beginning of the human race God has looked to men as being responsible for spiritual leadership. I would guess that most men think that this is an option they can turn down. Many men sing the old hymn, “Take my wife and let her be consecrated Lord to thee.” When they should be crying out, “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee”
I’ve been very pleased with most of the men in our church who are stepping up to lead their families to trust in God. In recent months there has been spiritual and numerical growth in the men in this church.
When Eve sinned God required the man to admit his condition. When God asked, “Where are you?” He was not seeking information for himself. God was seeking the heart of the man that included a confession of his condition. When the story of the Fall is told there seems to be an assumption by most people that Satan caught Eve alone and deceived her. The Bible is very clear, “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6)
He was with her, she wasn’t alone. Throughout the ages men have shirked their responsibility to be the spiritual leaders of the home. It could be said that many men stood aside and watched their wife be deceived into sin. Guys pay attention when it comes to a time of reckoning you will not be standing aside while your wife pays the price. God will speak to you as being responsible for her. You don’t have to act responsibly to be responsible. In God’s eyes men are to lead their home in spiritual matters. This truth is maintained from the Garden of Eden to the end of the world. It seems very difficult for us to understand that this man and woman could walk and talk with God every day and still fall into Satan’s trap! These events very likely had happened after several months not the couple of days it looks like in the Bible. Think about all the things that had happened. God had built a man out of mud and breathed life into him. He had brought thousands of animals to the man to see what he would call them. God had allowed the man to experience aloneness. This whole process would have taken a long time. Adam experienced a personal relationship with God unlike any other in history except that of Jesus Christ. Twice in the entire history of the human race an absolutely perfect man existed. Adam, until the sinned, and Jesus all his life.
When Adam was presented with the woman that was taken out of his side he recognized her relationship to him and now the two of them could walk with God. How long? I don’t know but it wasn’t just a few days. These people were not subject to forgetting their relationship with God after all they did want to be like him.
I’m reminded of Peter who spent about three years following Jesus from place to place only to tell a serving girl “Woman, I do not know him” when Jesus was being tried.  How could he do that! Jesus had even told him it would happen! There are some encouraging words in Jesus’ warning. He said to Peter, “when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Jesus certainly knew that Peter would repent and be restored to a right relationship with God. Following after Jesus or walking with God in the garden should have led to a strong faith.
We don’t recognize that the sin in our life is rebellion against God. In fact we usually don’t even consider sin to be sin. In Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology, sin is defined: “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” (page 490). Such failure is always an act of rebellion and…
Rebellion against God is foolish. Let’s turn to Psalm 14:1. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.
This must be an important passage of Scripture because it is repeated in total in Psalm 53. All sin is foolish nothing good can come of it. Throughout the book of Proverbs it is always “the fool” who indulges in sin. People will often persuade themselves that they have good reasons for sinning. A careful examination of our actions will show that in every case sin just does not make sense.
Adam and Eve exercised the highest level of foolishness in listening to Satan, and then letting him deceive them. The consequences of their sin reaches down through the ages because…
When Adam fell into sin he condemned mankind. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:1-3. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Thinking back to Romans 5:12 we are reminded that sin came into the world through one man — and that man was Adam. If Adam did not exist then the initial sin of mankind does not exist and Jesus’ death on the cross means nothing! If there was no original sin then there is no inherited guilt. If there is no inherited guilt there can be no inherited righteousness.
If it is not fair for us to be represented by Adam it is equally unfair to be represented by Christ and to have his righteous given to us by God. Think about that!
When King David committed the sickening sin of adultery, followed by murder, he was confronted by Nathan the prophet. A part of David’s repentance is shown in Psalm 51. There he said that he was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin his mother conceived him. So we see that Adam, the perfect man and David the king, a man after God’s heart, had a lot in common. They both suffered the consequences of their sin and paid the price ordained by God. In each of our lives there comes a time when we must choose to believe God, and therefore obey God, or we choose to rebel against God and suffer the negative consequences. When we do rebel against God we must come to him in repentance. Of first importance is the need to be a child of God. We must receive Jesus and believe in his name and submit ourselves to him as Lord. This can be your day of being freed from the bondage of sin.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society